Monday, 18 July 2011

So Schmeckt Berlin - Part 1

Much maligned for it's hearty fare, rather than haute cusine, I was nonetheless looking forward to eating my way around Berlin on my recent trip.  Meals based around pig and beer; surely there can be nothing finer?  As it turned out the food was fabulous, and, after plenty of great eating, I've spilt my Deutsch dining adventures into two parts.

First up breakfast, cakes, cola and an afternoon in the beiergarten.

Breakfast at restaurant Käfer, found on the roof of the German parliament.  Booking a table here not only guarantees you a meal with a view, you also get to explore the roof top and Norman Foster's glass dome after you have eaten. After having our passports checked, and going through airport style security gates we were accompanied up to the roof. The beautiful, sunny weather meant we could sit out on the terrace to eat.  The food isn't especially cheap (watch out for the 9.5 Euro bottle of water) but it is delicious and there's plenty of it. I chose the Bavarian breakfast; a selection of breads and jams accompanied by a fresh pretzel, Weißwurst, cheese, ham and Waldorf salad.  It also came with a Weißbier, the perfect thirst quencher for a hot morning.
The 'superfrustuck' at our local restaurant, Cafe Stresemann. This was a great little find, while hungry and tired, on our first night.  As well as an airy, old fashioned, interior there is also a lovely, shaded beer garden you can eat in.  The breakfast was great;  a traditional German selection of ham, cheese, pate, rye bread and a boiled egg, followed by rolls with butter and jam. The only let down was the coffee, usually pretty decent in Deuschland.

The traditional Cafe Sybille on Karl Marx Allee.  Featuring a museum at the back, based around the famous road on which it stands, this is a perfect stop for Kaffee und Kuchen.  The Apfelstrudel cake may have looked a little plain and uninspired, but was lovely and moist, with a layer of sharp fruit and a crunchy crumble topping.

The famous 'Berliner' doughnut, or Pfannkuchen as it is known in Berlin.  I bought this from a bakery at Tegel Airport, and didn't hold out too much hope for it.  It turned out to be one of the best yeast doughnuts I have eaten; both crispy and soft and full of jam. Sadly I had already gone through security, or I would have gone back to try the iced version.

A refreshing glass of Berliner Weisse the famous cloudy, sour wheat beer from Northern Germany.  It's a weak beer, usually around 3% alcohol, that is deliberately soured by a second bottle fermentation.  Traditionally it is served either rot oder grün (with raspberry or woodruff syrup) in bowl shaped glasses.  Although its popularity has waned in recent years it still makes a wonderful sweet/sour drink on a summer's day.

Ice creams from Eisladen, a mini chain of independent, ice cream shops that have some unusual flavours and use organic milk for their products.  This branch was down a small side street, surrounded by businesses, and it was funny to see groups in suits emerging with their lunchtime cones.

After making the difficult of which flavours to choose we sat outside in the sun to enjoy our goodies.  I chose the black vanilla, coloured with a natural soot, Milchreis, a rice pudding ice cream, and a sea buckthorn sorbet.  All were lovely, the sea buckthorn was gloriously tart and especially refreshing

On Sunday afternoon, beaten by the heat, we repaired to Cafe am Neuen See, a traditional, Bavarian style Biergarten in the Tiergaren.  Many locals had also had the same idea, but luckily there was plenty of room and we grabbed a table under the shade of the trees.  A few steins of Hacker Pschorr lager later and we were ready for another snack.  As well as the more usual pretzels and meat loaf there are also delicious, and cheap, wood fired pizzas available topped with either mozzarella and basil, or spicy sausage and chilli.

No trip to a new city would be complete without a visit to a supermarket or two.  Berlin supermarkets are pretty basic, and seem to be based around the 'pile it high, sell it cheap' philosophy, with lots of people still visiting the local butcher, baker, greengrocer for their fresh food.

One of my favourite finds was Spezi, a mixed orange and cola drink.  Pepsi make a version called  Schwip Schwap, or there is Mezzo Mix, made by Coca Cola.  I also found Vita Cola, a East German drink whose popularity has been revived by Ostologie, or a nostalgia for the East. Slightly less sweet than 'regular' cola, it also has a citrussy flavour.

And a very small selection of the magnificent wurst on offer. Here we have a jar of Pferdewürstchen, or horse sausages, and some Halberstädter Würstchen - described as 'real sausage for real men'. Sadly, after all the Ritter Sport and Haribo we bought, there wasn't room in my luggage for these.  Maybe next time...

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